I have just taken the car for its first oil change and inspection. This mostly involved sitting and waiting but it provided a good opportunity for people watching - so something interesting is always bound to turn up.
My reaction on going back to the showroom was one of horror, not at the selection of cars but at the abuse the poor cars had received at the hands of the showroom staff.
On the main display podium was a sky blue Hyundai Accent - a horrible car anyway but they had, er, enhanced it with a large design on the bonnet (that's the hood for my occasional American reader) and cartoon pictures of Dalmations on the doors.
Next to that was a black Hyundai Elantra - it looked OK (for a saloon car) from the front but they had stuck on (not quite straight) a silver fuel-filler cover that now stood proud from the body, a silver bumper protector below the boot (trunk) lid and, the biggest travesty of all - they had replaced the front seats with leather but not the back seats! Has anyone ever seen a car with half leather and half cloth seats?
Even the Tucson that they had (that's what I've got) had running boards and a replacement front bumper (fender) that's significantly larger than the original.
House Doctor. When I've been flat-hunting in the past here, people have shown me round filthy apartments with disgusting kitchens and broken aircon and assured me that it would all be fine by the time we moved in. I can’t see through the visual appearance to the possible flat underneath. Clearly I'm the odd one out here - the Hyundai dealer said they are currently selling 400 cars per month.
People here certainly do enjoy embellishing their cars, inside and outside. Sure there are yoofs in the UK who would be attracted by the horrible body kit like the car above but many more cars have fins, decals, stickers, pretend BMW 5-series antennae and so on stuck on the outside. Most have dangly things hanging from the mirror (usually the only purpose that the mirror serves), a pot of something smelly on the dashboard, seat covers (I've seen black leather seats with telly tubbies seat covers), steering wheel covers (some so thick that the driver can barely hold the wheel) and all sorts in the back window. The parcel shelf seems to be seen as a convenient storage place for cushions or a display for all the cuddly toys that you can find - oddly a back window like the one here doesn't mean that the owner/driver of the car is female - again, it's not such a big issue as the driving style really doesn't take into account what's behind you, only what's in front.
Clearly a number of people have seem The Fast and The Furious and have decided that adding blue neons to the underside of their local equivalent of an old style Nissan Micra would look cool.
Similarly, I spotted this guy who had added blue LEDs to the exhaust pipe of his mini-MPV so that they came on when he braked.
They did try to hard sell me on tinted window film - as summer is coming. I can see why other people are happy with the film to keep out the worst of the sun in the summer as it is pretty intense – (I've seen temperatures of 43 here) and in fact most cars here have tinted windows all round (and certainly much, much darker than would be remotely legal in the UK).
This is the first car I've ever had with manufacturer-tinted windows in the back and it makes reversing in poor light quite hard. Whilst I have adapted my driving style to some extent to match the local style, I'm still accustomed to using my mirrors before manoeuvring and I don’t think I could do that at night with tinted side windows. Some people without film install special curtains and taxi-drivers often trap a towel in the top of the driver's side window as a sun-shade - obviously they then can’t see anything at all out of the window then.
Still, my car was serviced in reasonable time. They even washed it. Unfortunately, the guy that drove the car from point to point didn't think to wash his hands so now the outside is clean and the inside is covered in oily-black fingerprints. Sigh.